Top Picks: Fantasy by Black Authors

This year has been particularly prolific in terms of publishing new, exciting black fantasy. The Gilded Ones of course made headlines upon its sensational debut in February, so our writers thought we should highlight our favourite fantasy by black authors from recent years.

Title summaries and copy taken from/provided by the publisher. Upcoming release dates may change.

Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi (Pan Macmillan, March 2018)

Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut Children of Blood and Bone.

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.

Tomi Adeyemi’s YA fantasy novel introduces the kingdom of Orïsha where magic no longer exists and Zélie, Tzain and Amari take us through an epic and dangerous journey trying to restore it. Inspired by Nigerian mythology, the book deals with the oppression and struggles of the ‘maggots’ the descendants of the maji who once used to dominate magic. – Joana Kalcheva

A Song Below Water, Bethany C. Morrow (Tor Teen, June 2020)

Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water is the story for today’s readers – a captivating modern fantasy about Black sirens, friendship, and self-discovery set against the challenges of today’s racism and sexism.

Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop.

No secret seems safe anymore – soon Portland won’t be either. 

An intricate blend of fantasy, mythology and misogynoir. Exploring racism, police brutality and fighting for justice in a sensitive and fresh voice, this novel is irresistibly compelling. With magical realism and a strong sisterhood at it’s core, Morrow’s YA debut is a must read for any fantasy lover. – Lucy Lillystone

Legendborn, Tracy Deonn (Simon & Schuster, September 2020)

Filled with mystery and Southern Black Girl Magic, Tracy Deonn’s New York Times bestselling Legendborn offers the dark allure of City of Bones with a modern-day twist on a classic legend. This is an explosive fantasy debut that’s perfect for fans of Cassandra Clare, Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas and Cinderella is Dead!

SOME LEGACIES ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN.

After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants to escape. A residential programme for bright high-schoolers seems like the perfect opportunity – until she witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus…

A flying demon feeding on human energies.

A secret society of so-called “Legendborn” that hunt the creatures down.

A mysterious mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts – and fails – to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.

The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory about her mother. Now Bree will do whatever it takes to discover the truth, even infiltrate the Legendborn. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and foretell a magical war, Bree must decide how far she’ll go for the truth. Should she use her magic to take the society down – or join the fight?

Winner of the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe for New Talent Author Award

A young adult urban fantasy twist on the legend of King Arthur. Deonn builds a captivatingly complex and layered world whilst also dealing with issues of grief, generational trauma and racism. – Antonia Harrison

Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tor, October 2020)

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns with Ring Shout, a dark fantasy historical novella that gives a supernatural twist to the Ku Klux Klan’s reign of terror.

IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS.

In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die.

Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up.

Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?

This Lovecraftian, dark fantasy novella reimagines the history of the Ku Klux Klan with a supernatural twist. Ring Shout follows Maryse Boudreaux, a monster-slayer who is hunting members of the KKK. As hate and evil threaten to consume the world, Clark explores racism in a way that pertains to Black American history and our current moment. – Rory McNeill

Amari and the Night Brothers, B.B. Alston (HarperCollins, January 2021)

Amari Peters knows three things.

Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.
No one will talk about it.
His mysterious job holds the secret…

So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.

Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.

With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton…

Amari and the Night Brothers is a fantastic middle-grade book centred around Amari and her search for her missing brother. She gets enrolled into the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and starts to learn about a world she never knew about. Think Men In Black but with teens and magical abilities! The plot is gripping and brings to light a unique perspective of a character who never felt like she fit in. – Danielle Greaves